Archives For wilderness

Teamwork!

January 2, 2014 — 2 Comments

Teamwork

Cheryl and I have been a team for over 18 years now. I can’t think of anyone else who I would rather do this thing called life with. She is just simply amazing. And beautiful. And smart. And talented. The list goes on and on!

The awesome thing about all this is, we really complement each other. She’s somewhat serious and driven. I’m goofy and happy-go-lucky. But we’ve rubbed off on each other over the years – I think I heard her tell a joke the other day, and not too long ago I actually had to write a check for something.

When we met, it was just one of those things – we both knew we could do life together, do it not just well, but do it great! And time has proven this, over and over. Through all the hard stuff, illness, injuries, surgeries, loss of jobs, birth of kids, anniversaries, date nights, and the random alone times – we were meant to be together.

The question “WHY” was posed to me this morning. Yesterday, I made a goal of blogging more, and I stated that Cheryl and I would combine each of our blogs. Why are we doing this? Because we are on the same page – we have a simple message, that through Jesus, all people can become free of every entanglement. We each had our own blogs, and were hitting the topic from different angles, and seeing quite a few people respond to the message. We think we can do more, and do it better, together.

The real “why” here is – we have been through so much! Both good and bad – and still we are able to give praise to our Savior! We have been in the wilderness – for most of our marriage, most of our lives in fact – and now we are coming out of that time of hardship – healed, set free, able to minister to others.

There are two verses that come to mind – 2 Corinthians 3:17 - “Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” and Galatians 5:1 – “Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then, and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

We want to continually be in the presence of the Holy Spirit, so that we can continually experience the freedom that Christ has provided, and since we are free, we want to encourage each other, and you, to learn to stand firm so that none of us experience any kind of bondage every again.

The message is simple – living it can be a challenge. Which is why we need to work together, pray together, encourage one another, pray for one another, help meet each other’s needs – just like the first Christians did almost 2000 years ago. The model they left for us – “they devoted themselves to the teaching of the Word, to fellowship, to breaking bread, and to prayer” – is what we should be doing today, all these years later. I want to see my family become like this, and I want you to join us, or even start something new on your own. I want you to be a part of my team – free people, who help free others!

Why? Because no one should be left behind. Our God has provided salvation and freedom for all who ask – my job is to tell the story of the great things he’s done for me, so that others can experience how great he really is!

 

Ask a Stupid Question

July 2, 2012 — 5 Comments

Irritated help desk worker

Have you ever heard someone say, “there’s no such thing as a stupid question?” They’ve never met me, have they? I am the king of stupid questions. I mostly do it on purpose, but sometimes a real doozy slips through, mostly because I’m not listening.

When I was in college, there was a store at the mall, a wonderful, glorious store called Everything’s $1. I would go and grab an ice cube tray and take it to the front (sometimes I would even stand in line) and then ask them to scan it since there was no bar code – “How much is this?” “It’s $1.” Take them a corkscrew “How much?” “$1.” I did that for a whole afternoon once, and kept getting the same answer.

In high school, my 10th grade history teacher was going on and on about the War of 1812. He talked for a good 40 minutes, then I raised my hand and asked, “When was this?”

Stupid questions. We like to think there aren’t any, and we tend to ask them anyway.

I asked God a question recently. A very specific question, and I got a very specific answer. I’ve been asking this same question for about 5 years now and have never gotten an answer before. This time I did, and I did not like the answer, so I became angry and whiney. It was kind of a stupid question anyway.

We want to know so much from God, and a lot of how he operates is not going to be revealed to us this side of eternity. Sometimes though, God will surprise us, and if your experience is anything like mine, we generally don’t like the answer we get.

God is not a Magic 8 Ball. In fact, there’s a whole segment of the population that thinks they are from the devil. Same with astrology, palm reading, tarot cards. We have questions but very little in the way of answers. Many times we just make it up as we go along since the answers aren’t forthcoming and end up in worse shape than we started.

As for me, I basically asked for a timeline on a certain thing, and instead of weeks or months the answer was years. YEARS. Can I fast track this? Can we skip some steps? How do I bypass some of that and still get to where I need to be?

I can’t. You can’t either. God has a timeline for you, a process for getting you from point “A” to point “Whatever.” It’s called “sanctification” and it’s all about your (and my) character. The very fact that I got mad at God’s answer is an indication that I am not ready to step into my destiny just yet. Instead of whining and complaining about the answer, I should have been thankful that there’s light at the end of this particular tunnel. I’m not ready.

The other part of the answer that should have encouraged me is that I’m on the right track. I need to keep doing the things I’m doing and I’ll get there – and again, my response to God’s encouragement was not consistent with someone of character.

Why do you need to know this? Well, part of my path is one of transparency, and part of it is of writing it down. I am instructed by God to share all this and I don’t know why. Well, I kinda know why. Many of you are struggling with the same thing – How long? What’s next? How do I do this? How do I get where I need to be? And every time I write something, several people let me know it’s just what they needed to hear.

I write what God puts in my heart and mind, and he blesses people. That’s where I’m at right now, and honestly, there’s nothing to complain about there.

I’m going to keep asking these stupid questions, because “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for  bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)

God loves it when we ask him things, when we seek him. He loves it when we depend on him for the answers. And he loves to give us what we need.

I needed an answer, one was given, and after much belly-aching, soul searching, sour attitudes and crying, I can live with it. Which gets me one step closer to his promise for me.

What about you? What are you seeking? What kinds of questions are you asking? What answers are you getting? With God, there is no stupid question. You might not like the answer, but that’s between you and him. And you better learn to love the answer because it is what is best for you.

See that face right there? That face says, “I will punch a wolf.” Nothing trumps Liam Neeson. Liam Neeson is Chuck Norris’ worst nightmare. He is the reason why Waldo is hiding. He finds your lack of faith disturbing.

With that being said, there’s a new Les Miserables coming out. I will see this movie. Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean? Anne Hathaway as Fantine? Amanda Seyfried as Cosette? Heck yeah! It’s even got Sacha Baron Cohen in it! It’s not a question. My greatest hope is to live long enough to see this movie. And then I may enter eternal rest, fulfilled and happy.

Everyone knows the song that Fantine sang, right? “I Dreamed A Dream?” It’s a haunting, sad lament sung by a dying woman who wonders where life went so wrong. “There was a time when love was blind and the world was a song, and the song was exciting, then it all went wrong. I dreamed that love would never die, I dreamed that God would be forgiving…I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living. Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.”

I know that song. I’ve lived that song. Life killed my dream.

I’ve only wanted one thing, for as long as I can remember. My Grandmother use to pray over me when I was a child – “Make him your servant, Father.” And I wanted that more than anything.

I grew up in church, and everything my pastors did I watched and emulated. I studied the bible relentlessly. I checked out theology books from the church library when I was 11 years old and I even read them. I started making connections between common everyday events and spiritual things when I was even younger. I wanted my life to be a sermon. I wanted my life to be something special. I wanted to point people to God. It was my dream. Then life killed the dream I dreamed.

So many things have happened. So many people have hurt me, and I’ve done the same right back. I worked in churches for years, growing bitter, angry, being hurt and hurtful. The song was exciting – exciting to think about and dream about, but life itself was just all wrong. It was the same no matter where I went, no matter what my job was. I kept dreaming, kept hoping, kept believing that God would be forgiving, that he would bless me, and then that part of me died.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

My life was a hell because of my dream. I pursued a dream and not God. His calling on my life was real, and he even planted that dream in my heart, but the dream was not worthy of being pursued. I bypassed the one who called me, the one who gifted me, and made my life all about the dream.

To be who God created me to be, that part of me had to die. The part that held onto the dream, the part that was self sufficient, the part that was created and sustained by my own will.

Your dream is not worthy of being pursued, but the one who gave you the dream is!

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, everything you do flows from it.”

Your heart’s desire should be the pursuit of a relationship with God. He is already pursuing you! When everything in your heart is right, everything that flows from you will be about him and not you. God will give you a dream and you’ll surrender it to him and he will give you all that and more.

Everything in your life should be an overflow, the excess of the abundance that God blesses you with because of your relationship with him. The dream is worthless, fruitless, without his blessing, and you can’t get God’s blessing. It’s not about not having road rage or working in a church. It’s not about the good you do or the lack of evil in your life. It’s all about resting in him. When you can rest in God, as his child, the dreams you dream will begin to come true.

My dreams died because I was never at rest, I never trusted, I went about making my dreams come true on my own. I, I, I. It was all about me, then that part of me got tired, sick, terminally ill. That part of me withered and died and was cut away. A new me emerged from that death, and God knows I’m still working it out, but at least I’m pointed in the right direction now – and that direction is one of being led by the giver of dreams.

How about you? Is the dream alive or is it dying on the vine? Is your relationship with God sustaining you or are you just barely hanging on, all alone?

Let it go! The dream is nothing without the dreamgiver. Your dream will die eventually anyway. Cut it loose now, sacrifice it at the feet of the one who can bring life from death. And after that part of you is gone, God will plant his dream in your heart and invite you to pursue him. If you do your dreams will all come true!

How I Got Here

June 15, 2012 — Leave a comment

Of all the things I have learned, the most important is that I am blessed – beyond reason. Looking back, especially over the last few years, I have been so ungrateful – for my family, my home, my health, my friends – and the list could go on.

Something happened to me along the way, not just one thing, but several somethings. In the midst of my blessedness, I experienced life. Just like happens to you and everyone else, life happened to me.

When I was 16, I made a huge life decision, and I pursued that decision. When other people didn’t understand, even when it seemed I would never get there, I never lost sight of that decision. I knew that God had gifted me and called me into full time vocational ministry, and even with all the youthful missteps and detours I took along the way, I saw a clear path into that calling.

I took a few wrong turns, but eventually ended up right where I set out to be.  And it was nothing like I thought it would be. It really kinda sucked to be honest. I loved and excelled at certain facets of it, others I disliked so much that I didn’t even do them. Which speaks to my immaturity at the time, and ultimately it speaks to why I’m not working in a church right now.

I used my gifts to cover my weaknesses, and while I am very strong in certain areas, I didn’t even try to develop skills in my weak areas, and I never accepted help from others in those areas either. Since then I’ve learned so much -

I never thought that administrative duties were much fun, so I didn’t do anything like that. I spent my time reading, studying, meeting with people, teaching, preaching, but all the work that was required of me that undergirds all that – I just flat out refused to do it. People even asked me all the time what they could do to help – “Nothing” I would say. Now my job is administrative, and believe it or not, I see the importance in it and how vital it is that those things be done with excellence.

Another thing I refused to do is build bridges. About 95% of the people I meet, I find common ground, and it’s easy to build a relationship. If it wasn’t easy, I didn’t do it. Some people are hard to get along with, hard to build a relationship with, and what I’ve found is, often times these people are the most important ones, the ones that will stand with you no matter what. Another important lesson learned, and I learned it outside the church.

I also learned about who my source is. My source cannot be me. I’m not strong enough, not smart enough, not *anything* enough. I am not sufficient. I thought I was though – I was young, bulletproof, nothing could hurt me, nothing could stick. Until it all fell apart, I thought I was doing just fine on my own. I forgot that the one who called me and gifted me would also be the one to sustain me regardless of what came my way. I won’t forget that most important lesson again.

Where I am now – the place I ended up – is the exact place I learned all this – kicking and screaming the whole way. Not two days ago my boss was bragging on me, and she reminded me of who I was when I first started – lacking in so many skills, immature, whiny – and she reminded me of how much grace she showed me those first two years. She said she saw something there and thought I was worth it. I cried then and I’m crying now. Grace.

Grace is the one thing I have in abundance that I deserve the least. The most important blessing there is. I am so blessed! Beyond reason. But God’s love for us doesn’t have anything to do with logic and it certainly isn’t based on what we truly deserve. We’d all be in deep trouble if grace was based on anything but the fact that God is love. God is love!

God is love and God never changes – I say this a lot because I am convinced it is true -nothing you do or don’t do can cause God to love you any less. He IS LOVE. And what he wants for you is to become the person he paid for, the person he bought with blood, the person he dreamed of, the person he redeemed you to be. His goal for you is for you to live like you will when you are in heaven, here on earth.

There’s a lot involved in that. It’s a process. You’ll be there one day, the next you’ll be 1000 miles away. You’ll walk through deserts, you’ll stand on mountain tops, you’ll be lifted high and you’ll be crushed. That’s the life part.

No matter where you are, know this one most important thing: God is love, God loves you, his grace is sufficient regardless. How did I get here? I lived life on my own, it sucked, I learned to trust God. He is everything, and he is all I will ever need.

 

(This is the final part. Read part 1 here, part 2 here.)

Moses is about 80 years old, he’s just led the biggest rebellion in history, God has defended them and provided for them and performed miracles every step of the way, and here we are, a little hungry, a little thirsty.  Now, I know, people die in the desert real quick without water and food, and God devotes two whole chapters in the Bible to how He provides for His people.  Exodus 16 & 17 – I’ll just read 2 verses – 16:3 and 17:3

“The Israelites [whined], ‘If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Instead, you brought us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of hunger!’”

“But the people thirsted there for water, and grumbled against Moses. They said, ‘Why did you ever bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’”

Oh yeah.  They went there.  And bought property.  If I ever get that whiny, I want someone to punch me in the head.

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